Book Notes: "The White Peacock" by D.H. Lawrence

The White PeacockThe White Peacock by D.H. Lawrence

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is always interesting to read a major author's last works first, and then delve into their first novel. I found myself spiralling down from a Love Among the Haystacks quaintness, to a period Enid Blyton curiosity, and finally to a period piece of young adult (YA) fiction. That is, until towards the end when the major characters are approaching middle age. This is where the back cover's "strange genius" is evident. The tone moves with the age of the characters. It is always difficult to limit the affect of introductions and other readings in how one interprets a novel, but I think here the back cover's "strange genius" is right. The botanical and ornithological details provided by the first-person narrator irritatingly reminded me of Jean M. Auel's endless treatise on herbalism in the Clan of the Cave Bear series, rather than being the fine poetry promised by the back cover. Nevertheless, if my view that Lawrence begins the novel with a teenage knowledge of the world and ends with an educated, middle age view of the world is correct, the flora and fauna provide the one constant theme, in the form of the knowledge of a hobbyist that is untouched by formal or social training or experience, that otherwise comes to bear as the characters age. The conclusion left me with a physical shudder. I think it is the ordinariness of the story that makes it so powerful. This is not a fanciful tale but a story that any one of us could, and in fact do, live out, and this is clearly the novel's great strength.

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